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May 15, 2002
From journal Arches and Canyonlands NP
Cleveland , Ohio
September 10, 2001
The Fiery Furnace is a maze of red and white sandstone fins. The name comes from its appearance in the late afternoon sun – the red rocks look like tongues of fire reaching up from the ground. Despite its name, this can be a cool place to walk even on the hottest day. There is no clear trail here, and once we entered, we were very glad we had a guide.
The afternoon was cold and rainy, but these hikes proceed, rain or shine. Our small group followed the ranger into the stone labyrinth after a lesson about the fragility and importance of the crypotbiotic crust. We were urged to walk on the slick rock whenever we could and to leave no trace of our passing. The ranger was most serious about the fragility of the environment here. On at least on occasion, he backtracked and gently wiped out footprints we had left in the sand when we ventured slightly off path.
Our hike was a little like taking a combined mini rock climbing, geology and biology class. We learned how to walk with greater assurance on the slickrock (even when wet), jump across small crevices and use small handholds and footholds to traverse certain stretches of the route. The pictures at the Visitor Center were accurate, but we did not fully appreciate how challenging this would be! At one point our guide paused before a wall and identified the clearly defined rock layers of the Entrada Sandstone Formation – the Dewey Bridge Member (bottom), the Slick Rock Member (middle), and the Moab Tongue Member (top). These three layers have made Arches the park that we see today. Most arches are in the Park are made of Entrada Sandstone. Finally, we learned about some of the plant life found in this desert environment. We were especially impressed by examples of the fragile Canyonlands Biscuitroot, a plant found only in Arches!
Ranger-led hikes are great learning experiences. It is a genuine treat to be led through an area of natural beauty and gain a deeper knowledge of it. A walk in the Fiery Furnace would be wonderful under any circumstances. However, by taking this hike, we not only glimpsed a part of the Park which only a few people see, we came to better understand one of the most awesome landscapes on earth.
From journal Arches National Park - Red Rock Fantasy